One week after lawmakers failed to make the Holy Bible the official state book of Tennessee, the state enacted a “religious freedom” law that lets mental health counselors deny service to anyone they want if it conflicts with their beliefs. Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed Senate Bill 1556 Wednesday night, making it a state law effective immediately. Critics, who have weighed in on numerous similar laws recently, argue the new law ultimately reduces mental health access for certain sectors of the population, like the gay and lesbian community.
Haslam, who vetoed the Bible bill earlier this month, tried to deflect some of the criticism by pointing out some of the law’s specifics. “There are two key provisions of this legislation that addressed concerns I had about clients not receiving care. First, The bill clearly states that it ‘shall not apply to a counselor or therapist when an individual seeking or undergoing counseling is in imminent danger of harming themselves or others,’” he said in a statement. FULL REPORT